How would you feel if you learned there was a meteor ten miles wide on a collision course with earth and scientists were predicting an almost 100% chance of a direct hit in three days that would essentially end life as we know it?
Or how would you feel if you worked for months and months on a political campaign and after the votes were counted, the candidate you worked so hard for lost?
Or how would you feel if when you went to work each day there was a group of people who did nothing but criticize and insult you and tell you your ideas were bad and your plans had no chance of success?
I can tell you how I’d feel. Scared. Discouraged. Anxious. Worried. Hopeless.
Now what if the calculations were wrong and the meteor was never on a collision course? What if you turned off the television before all the votes were counted and your candidate actually won? What if your idea was good and your plans were solid and you knew your competitor sent those people?
Here’s the problem…even if something isn’t true, if you believe it is, you will still be plagued by negative emotions. Reality may be very different than what you believe, but if you don’t know it, then you’re stuck believing a lie. The truth changes everything though.
Imagine the joy of learning the meteor is millions of miles away, your candidate won and your idea is so good you’re getting a promotion and a raise.
This morning, I read a passage in Ezekiel about false prophets. Here’s one of the verses that stuck out to me:
You have discouraged the righteous with your lies, but I didn’t want them to be sad. And you have encouraged the wicked by promising them life, even though they continue in their sins. (Ezekiel 13:22)
Then I read a passage in John 8 where Jesus is speaking of Satan:
He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
And then I was reminded of the account in Nehemiah where they are working hard to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Israel’s enemies are relentless in trying to discourage them from continuing the work. But Nehemiah says:
“There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.” They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination. (Nehemiah 6:8-9)
And finally, I thought about this verse:
We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)
So all of this got me thinking. What if things aren’t as bad as we think? Yeah, I know the world is a messed up, broken place, but what if there are many more people in the world who are working for what’s good and right than we think?
Could it be that a very small minority of well-placed people in influential positions could cause mass fear and discouragement? If you don’t think so, listen to a politician or just turn on the news.
I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but then again, maybe I do.
Conspiracy: an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot. A combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose.
Our enemy is evil and he’s a liar who works to discourage God’s people. If he can get us to believe we’re defeated…then we will be.
What if it’s time to start a movement of people who will choose to believe the truth and pray for truth to be revealed?
Would you be interested in being a part of it?
Let me know.
By the way, the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt in 52 days.
It’s been over a year since Israel left Egypt. They’ve camped at Mt. Sinai, received the law and now they’re on the move. They know when to move and when to stay because God leads them through the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The cloud or the fire are always visible.
God also provides food for them every morning. The manna appears on the ground with the dew. They gather what they need, grind it up and bake it like flat cakes.
Wouldn’t you think these people would be in awe? Wouldn’t you think they’d be blown away after seeing all the plagues God sent in Egypt, how He parted the Red Sea and how He’s been leading and providing for them in the desert? Wouldn’t you think?
Well, they’re not in awe. Or blown away. In fact, they’ve had enough already. And they’ve started complaining.
I’d like to ask them what in the world they were thinking when they started complaining, but I don’t need to. I can just ask me. I’m them. I totally get where they’re coming from.
In Numbers 11, they’re complaining about their hardships, so God sends a fire into the outskirts of the camp. They scream for Moses to help and after he prays, the fire stops. But some of them die.
Then some of the foreigners traveling with Israel start reminiscing about the good old days in Egypt when they had all the delicious food they wanted. Well this gets some of the Israelites stirred up again and they start complaining again.
Moses can hear the people complaining, so then he gets in on it. Here’s the account in Numbers 11:10-15…
10 Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the Lord became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. 11 And Moses said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? 12 Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? 13 Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! 15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
Can you relate? I can.
Moses didn’t ask for this. He didn’t want to be God’s spokesman to Pharaoh. He didn’t want to lead all these people. He didn’t ask for this trouble.
And yet, here he is. Right in the middle of a big old mess trying to lead a couple million complainers through a desert.
I counted them. He asks God seven questions. Are any of them familiar to you? They sure are to me.
“Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly?”
“What did I do to deserve…?”
“Why did You tell me…?”
“How can I…?
“Where am I supposed to…?”
Moses isn’t a little frustrated. He’s aggravated. Very aggravated. I get it. I would be too. To be honest, I’m aggravated about far less than that right now. And I’ve got some of those same questions for God.
What about you?
Are you aggravated with your circumstances and with God?
Maybe you’re wondering why God is treating you the way He is. Or what you did to deserve the situation you’re in. You’re wondering why God told you to do the things He did and why things are falling down around you. And now you’re trying to figure out how to fix the problem God has gotten you into. So you’re looking around for help or answers you need and can’t find any.
I’m right in there with you if you’re going through a hard season. And you and I are in good company. Moses struggled too.
In a few weeks, Robyn and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Like every couple, we’ve had ups and downs, good days and bad days, fun times and hard times…but what’s remained constant is our excitement about being married to each other. If the passionate feelings of those early years of marriage are supposed to fade away, then it must happen at some point after 30 years together. Because we’re not there yet!
I just don’t believe the feelings have to fade with time. Feelings are the result of thoughts and beliefs. They’re the result of choosing to love and serve one another.
Maybe your marriage isn’t what it once was. Maybe you’re feeling stuck and losing hope.
It might feel like you’ve fallen out of love, but I believe you can also fall back in.
Maybe you’d just like to improve on an already good marriage.
Whatever your situation, you can begin moving toward an intoxicating love and marriage right now.
Before I get to today’s post, I want to let you know I will soon be releasing an online video course called, “Intoxicating Marriage.” Proverbs 5:19 says, “A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” I love the picture of a couple so in love they could be described as drunk on each other. And that’s my hope for anyone who goes through this course.
It’s 12 videos that cover effective communication, spiritual growth, physical fitness, how to have an exciting sex life, how to be more romantic, understanding and meeting one another’s needs and more. The course will sell for $79, but for my weekly email subscribers, it will only be $39. If you would like to get it in on the $39 price, please click here to sign up for my weekly email. You’ll also get a free eBook when you sign up.
Now on to today’s post…
I’ve been hanging out in Luke 11:1-13 the past few days. Jesus has been praying when one of His disciples asks Him to teach them how to pray like John taught his disciples. So Jesus teaches them what’s commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It would probably be more correct to call it “The Disciples Prayer.”
He doesn’t stop there though. Jesus goes on to tell them a story about a man who asks a friend for some bread so he can feed another friend of his who has just shown up for a visit. Since it’s midnight, his friend tells him to get lost. Jesus then explains the man may not get out of bed and give his friend the bread based on their friendship, but he will do it because of the guy’s “shameless persistence.”
The application Jesus makes is in the following verses: keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking, because eventually you’ll receive. He concludes His teaching on prayer by saying, “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”
This passage reminds me of Hebrews 11:6, which says, “…He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”
We often talk about having a relationship with God and getting to know Him better. Well here’s something we can know about God: He values perseverance. He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. He answers the prayers of those who shamelessly persist.
Have you been praying for a family member to come to know Christ? Or for your marriage to be saved? Or a child to come to their senses?
Keep going. Don’t quit. If you’re going to be guilty of anything, don’t let it be quitting, let it be your shameless persistence. I know it’s hard and discouraging to keep praying for something when month after month, even year after year, the answer doesn’t come. God values your perseverance though. And somehow He will reward your sincere seeking.
How do you respond in a crisis? I don’t mean your first reaction. No one does well when the phone rings at 2:00 a.m. I’m talking about your second reaction. After you’ve had a little time to process.
Do you panic? Feel overwhelmed? Worry? Get anxious? Are you filled with fear? Or dread?
Or maybe you respond well. You pray, assess the situation and take action. Instead of fear, you respond with faith. You might feel powerless, but that drives you to pray.
How do you respond?
In Luke 8:22-56, there are a number of people who are facing a crisis of one kind or another. Some are in fear of their lives. Some are facing serious health issues. And it’s fascinating to see how they respond and then how Jesus responds to them. Click here to read the passage.
The first group of people we see are the disciples. They’re out on the lake in a boat when a fierce storm hits. The boat was filling with water and they were in real danger. How do they respond to the crisis?
They freak out by waking Jesus up and shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
Jesus calms the storm and then asks, “Where is your faith?”
When they arrive at the other side of the lake, a demon-possessed man approaches Jesus just as He’s getting out of the boat. This guy was homeless, naked and had lived alone in the cemetery for a long time. The demons have a crisis on their hands. The Son of the Most High God has just shown up. How do they respond?
They freak out, too. They beg Jesus not to send them to the bottomless pit, but to instead allow them to go into a herd of pigs. Jesus gives them permission and they enter the pigs. The herd then rushes over a steep cliff into the lake and drowns.
The people of that region hear what has happened and rush out to Jesus. When they see the man who’d been demon-possessed sitting there, fully clothed and in his right mind, they face a crisis. Something powerful and mysterious has just occurred and they don’t understand it. How do they respond?
They freak out, of course. They’re afraid of Jesus and beg Him to leave. The one person who isn’t freaked out is the guy who’s been made well. He begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go home to his family and tell them all God has done for him.
Jesus gets back in the boat and heads to the other side of the lake again. When He arrives crowds press around Him, including a guy named Jairus who’s 12-year-old daughter is dying. How does he respond to his crisis?
He believes Jesus can heal her begs Him to come with him. Jesus agrees to go with him, but then gets sidetracked by a woman in crisis. She’s been bleeding for twelve years without relief. Nothing she has tried has cured her. How does she respond?
She believes that if she can just touch the cloak Jesus is wearing, she’ll be healed. And she is. Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
While Jesus is speaking with her, word comes to Jairus that his daughter has died. But Jesus says to him, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.”
When Jesus arrives at his home, He tells the mourners to stop weeping because the little girl is only asleep. They all know she’s really dead and so they respond by laughing at Jesus. Of course, Jesus gets the last laugh when He brings her back to life.
The disciples face a crisis and freak out. Jesus asks them where there faith is.
The demons face a crisis and freak out because they know who Jesus really is. He exercises His authority over them and drives them out of the man, who is then healed and sane again.
The people of that region face a crisis and freak out in fear and beg Jesus to leave, which He does.
The man who was now free of the demons demonstrates faith by begging to go with Jesus.
The woman who’d been bleeding for twelve years faces a crisis and exercises her faith and experiences healing. She goes in peace.
Jairus faces a crisis when he realizes his daughter is dying. He has faith in Jesus and begs Him to come heal her, which He does.
The mourners face a crisis by laughing at Jesus. The gospel of Mark tells us Jesus made them leave the house before he raised the little girl to life. Could they have witnessed the miracle themselves if only they’d had faith like Jairus?
What’s your crisis today?
Is it financial? Health-related? A troubled marriage or relationship with a child? An issue at work? Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the state of the world.
You and I really have two choices. We can focus on the circumstances we’re in and freak out OR we can focus on Jesus, exercise faith in Him and experience His joy and peace.
I don’t know what Jesus will do in response to your faith. I wish I could tell you the crisis will be immediately resolved. That probably won’t happen. And I wish I could tell you it will be easy to focus on Jesus and trust Him. It won’t be.
Keeping your eyes on Jesus and trusting Him will require diligence. Your circumstances will cry out for your undivided attention. Whatever situation you’re in will feel more real than Jesus does.
But don’t give up. Make the choice to see your circumstances through the eyes of Jesus. Know beyond any doubt there’s nothing too hard for Him. Bring Jesus into the midst of your fears, worries and weaknesses. He sees. He understands. And He’s at work right now.
I’ll confess that I do. I really try not to, but it’s an ongoing battle. It’s become harder recently since I was laid off in November. I got a month of severance pay and received my last paycheck on December 31st.
A few days ago, I was reading in Mark 12 where Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment. He said, “…you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
Part of loving God is loving Him with our minds.
This morning, I read Exodus 34:14, “You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.”
Ponder that for a minute. His name is Jealous and He is jealous. About what? His relationship with you and me.
As I was praying, I watched as two birds landed on a light pole outside the window of my hotel. They kept looking up to the sky. It reminded me of Matthew 6…
24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Several things hit me from that passage:
1. We can’t love and serve God and money. We have to choose.
2. I’m to be like the birds outside my window who weren’t worried about anything. They weren’t planting or harvesting. They didn’t even seem to mind the freezing drizzle.
3. Material needs “dominate the thoughts of unbelievers…”
So let me see if I can tie all this together…
The greatest commandment is to love God, which includes loving Him with my thoughts. He is jealous for me. He doesn’t want me to have any other gods before Him. I have to choose between loving and serving God or loving and serving money. And money and material needs dominate the thoughts of those who don’t know God.
So if my thoughts are dominated by thoughts about money, how can I also be loving God with my mind? Practically speaking, it’s like I’m denying He even exists when I worry. Why? Because He promises if I’ll seek first His Kingdom and live as He desires, He’ll meet my material needs.
How about you? Do you worry about money? Or about something else?
God is jealous for the attention you and I give to these other gods who can never satisfy us anyway. When we choose to take our focus off money and put it on Him, it’s one way that we can express our love for Him.
On the other hand, when we choose to worry, it’s like believing God cares more about birds and flowers than about us.
Whether you observe the season of Lent or not, I want to make a resource available to you. It’s a 40-day devotional written to help strengthen your faith. Circumstances, feelings, discouraging news and negative comments from others can sap our faith. It can start to feel like God is far away and unconcerned about what we’re going through.
“I Believe God: a 40-day adventure” will help you reject the lies we’re told by the enemy and the world and replace them with the truth of God’s word. If you’d like a copy, you can get one by clicking here. The suggested price is $1.99, but I have it set up so you can name your own price. If you want to pay nothing, you can do that.
I know sometimes Lent is viewed as a season “to give something up.” So let’s give up believing our feelings and circumstances and start believing God.
I grew up in Brick, New Jersey, a beach town about ninety minutes south of New York City and ninety minutes east of Philadelphia. It was a great place to live. I had great friends and loved my high school experience.
What I didn’t love so much was church. At best, it was boring and irrelevant. For me, the best part was watching the old people try to park. It’s not that I didn’t believe God existed. I just didn’t think He had very much to do with my daily life.
We attended church fairly regularly as long as my parents woke up on time. I did my best to remain as quiet as possible on Sunday mornings, hoping they’d oversleep. Sometimes it worked and I got to stay home.
After high school, I went away to college at Cornell University. The first thing I did was stop going to church. I just didn’t see the point any more. And my parents weren’t there to make me go.
Some time during the fall semester after practice one night, a guy spoke to the football team I played on. I don’t remember anything he said other than if we wanted a free “Athlete’s In Action” magazine we could sign up for one. So I did.
A few months later, this guy named Bruce gave me a call. He wanted to meet with me. So thirty-three years ago today on February 4, 1982, he and I got together at the student union (that’s it in the picture). He asked me questions about my life, my family and church. After awhile, he opened this magazine and started talking about God.
Basically what he told me was this: God loved me and had a plan for my life, but because I (along with everyone else) had sinned, I was separated from God and couldn’t experience His plan for me. Then he got to the good news. He said when Jesus died on the cross, He was being punished in my place.
There was one more thing he said to me: I had to make a decision. It wasn’t just enough to know those other things. I had to decide whether or not to place my trust in Jesus. Forgiveness for my sin was a gift, but I had to choose to receive it.
In all my years of attending church, I’d never heard that before. I believed in God. I knew Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I knew Easter was about his death and resurrection. But I don’t ever remember hearing I had to actually decide what to do with Jesus. In that moment though in the student union, it was like the light came on.
Bruce explained I could practically express my faith in Jesus by praying, by asking Him to forgive my sin and to make me the person He wanted me to be. There was a prayer written out in the magazine, which he slid across the table to me.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening, but as I looked down at that magazine, I knew what I was about to do was really important. And so I read the words to the prayer very slowly and thought about each word. When I was done, Bruce and I talked a little more and set up another time to meet.
As I walked back to my dorm that day, I knew something was different. Something inside me was changed. I actually remember the sky being more blue. And the craziest part was actually having the desire to read the Bible and attend church.
I met a lot of people in college. Just never expected to meet Jesus there.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12-13)
In Mark 6, a huge crowd has been following Jesus. It’s now late in the afternoon. His disciples come to Jesus and tell Him to send the people away so they can buy food at the nearby farms and villages.
Instead of doing that though, Jesus says, “You feed them.”
Naturally, the disciples ask, “With what?”
That would be my question. Some of us with an attitude might have said, “Seriously? Seriously, Jesus? Are you for real? Come on, there are thousands of people here.”
Jesus simply replies by asking, “How much bread do you have? Go and find out.”
When the disciples return, they report to Jesus they have five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus has everyone sit down in groups, He blesses the food and gives it to the disciples to distribute. There was so much food left over they filled twelve baskets. Mark tells us over five thousand men and their families were fed.
I don’t know how much time has passed, but in Mark 8 there’s another large crowd gathered around Jesus. This time, the disciples don’t approach Jesus with the problem, He calls them and says, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
I would have loved to be there to watch that scene play out. The circumstances are identical to last time. Large crowd. No food. What do we do?
It’s playing out like when a parent is helping a young child with homework. “Okay, let’s try it again. Two plus two equals…”
But the child isn’t quite catching on yet.
“Now think about it for second, if I have two apples and then I add two more…how many apples do I have?”
The parent stares hopefully at the child. The child stares cluelessly at the parent. The answer is so obvious. But still the child isn’t getting it. Like the disciples. Like you and me.
His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”
Apparently, they don’t remember how things worked the last time. Not one of the twelve thinks to say, “Hey Jesus, You don’t have to send them away hungry! I have an idea! Do that thing You did last time! Remember? Remember that time You made all that extra bread and fish? Just do that again.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t be too hard on the disciples. I don’t remember things God does either. It’s like I’m Lucy in “50 First Dates.” God may have done something great for me yesterday or last week, but I don’t remember it. All I can see is the unmet need today and so I get worried and anxious.
If it was a test, the disciples didn’t do so well. They didn’t remember what Jesus had done in the past, so they didn’t see He could be counted on in the present.
As He did the previous time, Jesus asks, “How much bread do you have?”
This time they come up with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. And as He’d done the last time, Jesus multiplies what they have and feeds the entire crowd of four thousand people. The disciples gather the leftovers and fill seven baskets this time.
Faith is a big deal to God. He wants to be trusted. He’s pleased by our faith. So don’t be surprised when tests come. Don’t get discouraged when the circumstances seem stacked against you and there’s no way out. God has been faithful in your past. He will be faithful in your present.
We want good health for ourselves and those we love. We want to always have enough money to pay the bills with some left over. We want our relationships, especially with family members, to bring us joy and satisfaction. We want to be successful in our work. And we want our neighborhood, our city, our country and our world to be a safe place to live. And when we pray about something, we want God to answer. Sooner than later.
Does that pretty well capture what we want?
I’ll be honest. I don’t want to walk by faith. I don’t. A few days ago, I wrote a post on this site about seeking and trusting God. And really, that’s what this blog has been about for the past seven years. But if I’m honest, I have to admit I don’t really want to be in a position to have to trust God.
I want all of my needs met today, not tomorrow. I don’t even want to know how things will work out in the future, because that implies they’re not worked out today. And that makes me uncomfortable. And I don’t want to be uncomfortable. I know you don’t either.
That’s just not reality though. It’s not the way life works. It’s not the way God works.
James 1:2-4 says:
Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James is cluing us in to how life really works. And it’s contrary to the way we want it to work. It’s contrary to the way the world system tells us it should work. It’s even contrary to the way some Christians tell us life should work. We’re told that if we just have enough faith then we’ll have all the money we want and we’ll be healed of every sickness.
That’s not true though. My good friend died from colon cancer last year. He had great faith.
James doesn’t say “if” troubles come our way, he says “when” they do, we’re to consider it an opportunity for great joy. Yeah, I wish it didn’t work that way either, but it does.
We’re to consider troubles to be joy because we know that when our faith is tested, our endurance grows. When our endurance is fully developed, we enter into a new dimension of relationship with God where we discover He’s all we need, that in Him, we lack nothing.
When we pray for “breakthroughs”, I think what we’re really praying for is a quick way out of our troubles. At least that’s what I’m doing. It sounds something like this: “Oh God, please help me! I need a breakthrough today!” We want an end to the suffering today, don’t we? Have you ever prayed for a breakthrough to come in six months? Me either.
Maybe the better prayer is not for a breakthrough, but a go-through: “Oh God, give me the wisdom and strength to go through these troubles. Increase my faith. Help my endurance grow. Help me see I need You more than I need comfortable and pleasant circumstances.”